Fulfilling the Savior’s Great Commission — the charge to His ancient apostles to take the gospel throughout the world — is a task mission leaders and missionaries share with the Latter-day Apostles and can be done in normal and natural ways, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said.
Detailing a Church president’s historic 1974 address and lessons learned during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles underscored the key roles of communication, service and the wise use of technology.
Elder Uchtdorf, chairman of the Church’s Missionary Executive Council, spoke Friday, June 26, during the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar. The two-day virtual conference is for the 135 couples of new mission presidents and companions starting soon their three-year assignments.
Reciting the New Testament description of Christ appearing to His 11 disciples in Galilee, Elder Uchtdorf read one phrase as translated recently from Greek into English and other languages.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19, italics added, New King James Version).
Similar language is found in Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Cebuano, Samoan and other Biblical translations.
“This admonition to make disciples by finding, teaching, baptizing and confirming them is called the Great Commission,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “To be commissioned by the Savior means He has formally chosen disciples to carry on the work of the Father.”
This commission rests with the living Apostles today, he noted, adding mission leaders “have been called, set apart and commissioned to assist the Savior and living Apostles in this great work.”
In turn, mission leaders help missionaries to become disciples, who then aid in “making disciples” of those they work with — and do so in normal and natural ways through their communications, service and ministering.
President Kimball’s historic address
Elder Uchtdorf recalled President Spencer W. Kimball’s April 1974 address, “When the World Will Be Converted,” inviting seminar participants to consider “how this prophet saw our day and how the Lord has prepared us to take the gospel to the entire world today.”
President Kimball emphasized the need for “better additional methods and approaches,” adding, “I believe that the Lord is anxious to put into our hands inventions of which we laymen have hardly had a glimpse.”
He quoted President David O. McKay, who said modern inventions will “stagger the imagination” with “untold possibilities,” which President Kimball labeled as “beyond comprehension.”
Elder Uchtdorf said one of the “untold possibilities” is today’s use of technology by mission leaders and missionaries.
“It has been said that the recent pandemic may have been a ‘divine reset’ that could help us recalibrate our efforts to reach more people — and especially a younger audience.”
Envisioning handheld devices, global broadcasts
President Kimball envisioned a day when missionaries could use handheld devices to help them teach the gospel. “He was thinking of small recording devices back then, but the Lord had bigger plans,” said Elder Uchtdorf of modern digital tablets and smartphones.
President Kimball also noted the need for people worldwide to be taught in their native tongues.
“Millions of people are anxious and willing to learn, if only they can hear the ‘sound’ in their own language and in a manner that they can grasp and understand.”
Of developing satellite technology, the late prophet added: “Certainly these satellites are only the genesis of what is in store for the future of worldwide broadcasting.”
President Kimball summarized: “With the Lord providing these miracles of communication, and with the increased efforts and devotion of our missionaries and all of us, surely the divine injunction will come to pass: ‘For, verily, the sound must go forth from this place into all the world, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth — the gospel must be preached unto every creature’ (Doctrine and Covenants 58:64). And we must find a way.”
‘The possibilities are endless’
Elder Uchtdorf said he believes the Church and its missionaries “are finding a way,” aided by recent experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is truly an exciting time in the history of the world. The possibilities are endless.”
He asked mission leaders to embrace new possibilities and promote the use of approved, appropriate technology as tools to help solve challenges of gated communities, secured apartment buildings and shifting feelings about home privacy and on-street approaches.
“In the past, we may have been limited in our thinking about how to take the gospel to the world. We often considered using technology only when geographic distances forced us.”
Principles learned and practices refined — including the wise use of technology — during the current period of isolation and restrictions can help foster future success.
“When public restrictions are lifted again, it would be wise to resist the temptation of going back to the ‘old ways,’ which unfortunately too often didn’t work very well,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “We need to ‘go back to the future’ — a very bright future with new and exciting opportunities that will move us forward and upward.”
Communicate, serve in natural ways
Many missionaries today already communicate comfortably through text messaging and social media platforms, said Elder Uchtdorf, asking leaders to teach missionaries to focus their efforts and hone existing skills in reaching out to others through modern technology.
“The shift from their lives before their full-time missions to what they do as missionaries will be easier to negotiate if you ask them to continue interacting in normal and natural ways.”
Another simple way for missionaries to interact with others is through service and ministering, joining Latter-day Saints in inviting “come and help, come and see, come and belong.” Missionaries are authorized to participate in service activities up to 10 hours a week — more during times of local natural disasters.
Serving and ministering is applying “the Ammon principle” from the Book of Mormon, Elder Uchtdorf said.
Ammon followed his remarkable conversion with a 14-year mission among the Lamanites, as thousands were converted to Christ. One reason for Ammon’s success was serving those he labored among, including King Lamoni, whom Ammon told, “I desire to dwell among this people for a time.” Upon hearing later of Ammon’s acts of selfless service, King Lamoni was ready to listen to his gospel message.
Service and resulting blessings
“Our missionaries serve because they love the Lord and love their neighbors without expecting a reward or recognition,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “However, the Lord always blesses our missionaries for doing His will.”
One such blessing from service is missionaries feeling they are part of a greater cause, with a recent BYU study showing young people who serve strangers also having a higher self-esteem.
Another blessing is that service from missionaries will create people’s interest in who they are, why they are serving away from home, and what their motives are.
Elder Uchtdorf closed by reminding the new mission leaders of trust coming from the Lord and His apostles. “I wish you the very best of experiences as you begin this exciting journey to make disciples of your missionaries and by doing this help them to find, teach, baptize and make disciples of the people who are seeking light and truth.”